Along with attending the Canada Reads debates, I crammed quite a bit of sightseeing into my three days in Toronto. One of the highlights was my tour of the Art Galley of Ontario, known affectionately to most as “AGO.” There I was delighted to find Animal Tales: Beasts, Toys, and Fables from the AGO Collection, an exhibit that features original picture book illustrations, toys, and other artifacts that celebrate “the timeless appeal of picture books and the magic of visual storytelling.” Hear, hear!
One aspect of the exhibit in particular caught my attention. An entire room is devoted to Walter Trier’s original illustrations from the 1947 title, The Animals’ Conference, written by Erich Kästner.* It’s the first exhibit I’ve seen (outside of children’s museums of course) that was designed with the young viewer in mind. All artwork is hung at a child’s level and, instead of being academic in tone, the wall labels re-create The Animals’ Conference’s story in a simplified form. By walking around the room, you can “read” the book. A stuffed elephant and tiger, colorful block seats, and an art board are placed in the center of the room, resulting in a cheery, welcoming place for families. A truly excellent approach and a good example for libraries that want to create kid-friendly spaces.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any photos to illustrate the room arrangement for you. I guess you’ll just have to make the trip to Toronto!
Fun fact: He’s also the author of Lottie and Lisa (1949), the inspiration for the Parent Trap movies.